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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, fishing is more than just a profession in New England. Fishing is a culture and a way of life. In recent years, Maine's fishermen and fishing communities have been struggling to survive among Federal regulations that have limited fishing opportunities.
On September 13, 2012, the acting Secretary of Commerce declared a Federal fisheries disaster for Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Connecticut because of the significant projected reductions in the total allowable catch for critical groundfish stocks.
The expected and considerable catch limit reductions have been triggered by recently updated stock assessments that show that several key groundfish populations are significantly below the levels necessary to meet the rebuilding deadlines that are mandated by Federal law.
The projected reductions, which may be as high as 73 percent, will come despite strict adherence to new and rigorous management practices by fishermen.
There are approximately 45 Maine-based vessels actively fishing with Federal groundfish permits. Last year, more than 5 million pounds of groundfish, with a dockside value approaching $5.8 million, were landed in Maine.
Given the magnitude of the projected cuts, the effect on these Maine vessels and vessels of all sizes and gear types throughout the region will be profound. It will add to the already considerable economic burdens that fishing communities are facing. Federal assistance is necessary to support these fishermen and the fishing related businesses in our coastal communities.
The requested funding will be used to provide both immediate economic relief to the region's struggling groundfish industry, and to make targeted investments that will allow the fleet to survive and become more sustainable in the years ahead.
These funds could also be productively used to fully cover the costs of at-sea monitoring and to address long term overcapacity in the fishing industry. This is critical to rebuilding fish stocks and preserving a thriving fishing industry well into the future.
Slow recovery and declining fish stocks will continue to have a negative impact on commercial fishing, harming local communities and economies. Federal disaster assistance is vital to the long term success and short term survival of fishing communities throughout the region.
It is important to note that the funding provided in the bill is to respond to fishery disasters declared by the acting Commerce Secretary in 2012 under the authority provided by the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act. This is authorized funding in response to declared disasters.
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